PICKERING Town manager Paul Marshall admits that it will now be "tough" to win promotion but is vowing to keep pressure on leaders Cleethorpes Town.

The Pikes dropped to third in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division table last weekend after failing to beat fourth-placed Thackley.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's home game with struggling Parkgate, kick-off 3pm, Marshall said: "The league is Cleethorpes' to lose now. We will keep on fighting but it's a tough ask when you are 10 or 11 points behind.

"Both Bridlington Town and ourselves have got to try and catch them but, realistically, they are in a very strong position now."

Draws against both Thackley and Bridlington this month have seen the Pikes losing further ground on Cleethorpes and the departure of striker Billy Logan to Scarborough Athletic was another significant setback.

Marshall believes the Pikes would have beaten Thackley last week if Logan had still been around and says his team are also missing injured trio Russ Parker, Nathan Kamara, and Ged Dalton.

"It was definitely two points dropped last weekend. We missed Billy and would probably have won the game if he had still been here," said Marshall.

"Nathan (Achilles) has been out since Boxing Day, Ged is still getting over the broken rib he suffered nine weeks ago and Russ Parker has been another big loss.

"We have been a bit depleted but we have what we have – and these are just things you have to deal with in non-League football."

Both Kamara and Dalton, who has been used as a substitute in recent games, are likely to feature in the squad this weekend but Parker (ankle) is expected to be sidelined for another two or three weeks.

The Pikes will be boosted in midfield by the return of Eddy Birch from suspension and the availability of new signing Tom Claisse, who was unavailable last weekend due to Royal Air Force commitments.

Former York City striker Ben Hirst, meanwhile, has agreed to play a bigger role after concentrating on setting up his own business during the first half of the season.

The Pikes lost 3-1 at home to Bridlington Town last night (Tuesday) in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.